By Michaela Gates, Staff Writer
This past September, the CDC released its findings for drug overdoses in 2016, which totaled 64,000 with the largest increase in overdose deaths coming from those using opioids. It is worth noting that an opioid can be a controlled substance or street heroin.
Given that opioid overdoses totaled a little over 30,000, heroin accounted for just over half of those deaths. It is obvious to anyone that sees these numbers that our country is certainly knee deep in an epidemic and our state happens to be at the forefront as many of our cities such as New Bedford have some of the highest overdoses per capita in the nation.
While many have claimed that our criminal justice system is the issue, it would seem not as towns around the state, such as Gloucester, have given people the opportunity to turn their drugs and paraphernalia in with no consequences and just receive treatment. However, in the program’s first year and a half in effect, it seems nothing has changed.
That would be because this problem doesn’t start with our criminal justice system or the war on drugs, it starts with big pharma pushing pills as well as doctors and pharmacists dolling out pills like Tic-Tacs; with zero responsibility to the consequences of their actions.
In fact, some doctors at larger hospitals even make money for prescribing pills, meaning every time they over-prescribe to a person they make money. Not to mention, up until very recently, pharmacies and doctors’ offices had practically no way of knowing if a patient was going to multiple doctors or pharmacies to get their prescriptions filled.
While now many pharmacies and doctors have to set up networks to check how many times a patient is getting a prescription filled and by whom; prior to this a person could essentially bounce doctor to doctor or pharmacy to pharmacy and collect multiple prescriptions to either sell or overuse.
What needs to happen is doctors need to not be given a monetary incentive to hand out pills. We also need a system put in place nationally to regulate how doctors and pharmacies are giving out pills. A person should not be able to just get pills, especially ones as addictive and dangerous as opioids, by simply driving around from place to place.
If a national system is installed in doctors’ offices as well as pharmacies we can begin to end this epidemic. While heroin is certainly a problem, it is a direct result of the pill problem we have in the country. Many that are currently addicted to heroin have claimed to have started on pills, which makes perfect sense.
Pills are regulated, controlled, and clean; you know the dosage of each one as well as what is in it. While they are not particularly safe, they are certainly much safer than heroin; when people start using it as a social drug or occasional usage. Given the addictive nature of opioids, this of course doesn’t last long and they become dependent.
For those who don’t know, pills on the street are very expensive given that they are difficult to get and while most drug users can take pills for a while, it quickly becomes an expensive addiction.
The cheap solution is heroin, it is about five dollars a hit and because most inject, it is a much more potent high. Due to its potency it is a much more addictive substance, also because it is completely unregulated, many tend to accidently overdose as they assume it is less potent than it truly is.
I outlined this cycle in order to prove my point. While heroin is an issue, it is pills that are the true problem. Because heroin is considered by most to be a dangerous street drug many would not try it unless they had a reason for it such as a pre-existing addiction started by pills. If America truly wants to end its drug problem, we must shift big time pharmacies and the way we regulate pill prescriptions.